A new Sherriffs in town

Catherine Sherriffs will anchor CFCF's 11:30 newscast (CTV photo)

CTV Montreal announced on Thursday that reporter Catherine Sherriffs has gotten the job as 11:30pm newscast anchor, left vacant since the departure of Debra Arbec to CBC last month.

Sherriffs’s appointment is effective July 4, which, coincidentally or not, is the same day Arbec is scheduled to begin as the 5pm anchor at CBC.

“I’m really excited to still be reporting, it will be great to get out into the city,” Sherriffs says in the story CTV posted online. “But being an anchor is what I always dreamed about. Literally, always. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”

Sherriffs, from Morin Heights, is a 2007 graduate of Concordia’s journalism program, and got her start on radio. She’s the niece of current CFQR newsman Murray Sherriffs.

The choice of Sherriffs is a bit (but not too much) out of left field. Either of weekend anchors Paul Karwatsky or Tarah Schwartz would have been an obvious choice. Or one of the veteran reporters. But not all of them were interested in a job that would see them lose their weeknights.

Sherriffs hasn’t been contributing to CTV long (in fact, she wasn’t even a permanent member of the staff), but her appointment reminds me of that of Andrew Chang at CBC, who was also a noticeably young (and tiny, and cute) pick but who has turned out to be a very good anchor.

Another pretty face

Of course, the first reaction from TV watchers, and the thing most of us are too polite to point out in public, is that Sherriffs is very pretty. The thought immediately enters one’s mind that she was picked for the job primarily for this reason.

Let’s be honest here: Looks do matter on TV. In a world where your boss will talk to you about your choice of tie, how you look is a big part of how you’re judged. I personally cringe at the thought of how random strangers would judge me if I ever got a regular job that saw my face (and fashion sense) on television.

Look around the dial and you see lots of pretty faces in TV news (not just on Sun News Network). There’s an element of self-selection in this – people (especially women) who are very pretty seem more likely to see themselves as television reporters, or have people suggest that to them. There’s a natural sociological force that brings pretty faces and on-camera TV jobs together. And there are decision-makers who, when presented with two candidates with equal skills and experience, will convince themselves that the prettier one actually has more skills or more experience.

We can say this is wrong, that people should be chosen for their mental qualifications and not their looks, but at the end of the day it’s ratings that matter, and ratings are driven by the viewers.

So, was Sherriffs chosen because she’s pretty? I can’t get into the head of the decision-makers at CTV, so there’s no way to know for sure what they thought consciously or unconsciously. My guess is that it was a minor factor in the decision. Sherriffs’s hosting experience comes from radio, where nobody really cares what you look like. And her work as a TV reporter gives no indication that she’s a dumb girl wandering the streets with a microphone. Pretty works, but it isn’t enough.

The real test will come next month, when she takes over the anchor chair and begins walking the fine line between being a serious news reader and being a warm, relatable human being that people are comfortable spending some time with before they go to bed.

It’ll probably be awkward at first, but give it a few months and she and their viewers will get used to each other.

I’ve never met Catherine Sherriffs, but from what I know about her through her colleagues and her work, I can tell you this: This is what she wants to do, and few people are as motivated as she is to succeed.

21 thoughts on “A new Sherriffs in town

  1. wkh

    If there are two jschool grads in a room, all other things being equal, the pretty one will get the job.

    I’ll go as far as to say I think pretty can win over a slightly weaker cv depending on how much of a face for radio the competition has.

    Note, I do not think this is a bad thing. Newscasts need viewers. Viewers feel warm and comfortable with pretty (at least not scary) people reading their news. Obviously if you want to attract viewers you’re going to put the pretty person on rather than the troll (I am not calling the other reporters trolls; I don’t even know what they look like, I’m giving an example is all).

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  2. AlexH

    I suspect that part of the the game here is that this relatively new employee is working much cheaper than some of the more senior people. Why pay the big salary when you can pay a much lower one for the same work?

    She also fits in the generic CTV pan-Canadian look and feel, which is to say that it is way more about image than it is about content. In theory, the reporters, the on air people, etc should all be easily replaceable within the system, such that people are not attached to the news anchors, but to the station. Sherriff’s generic US anchor person look certainly seems to fall in line with that sort of desire.

    Heck, I wouldn’t be shocked if they are just grooming her to move her on to the Toronto station, you know, the “big” station.

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  3. Josh

    I guess today it’s not if you’ve paid your dues or how good you are, it comes down to looks, less pay and young. Catherine will learn anchoring as she goes along, only in Montreal. In Toronto this would never happen, they would have chosen someone with anchoring experience. Tara Schwartz or Paul Kawarstky should have been given a chance at the 11:30 newscast. But then again, how much anchoring do you actually do in 15 mins of rehashed news. I think this is probably one the reasons Arbec left for CBC, there she’ll anchor a 90 minute newscast daily. She can polish her anchoring skills and be part of a tight, good paced newscast.

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    1. John

      Of course it wouldn’t happen in Toronto. Toronto is the biggest market in the country.
      Montreal’s English market is the same size as Halifax.

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    2. Michel

      As Fagstein mentioned above, it can be implied that Karwatsky and/or Schwartz were both offered the position but turned it on. Keep in mind that it’s a 3 to midnight shift, not the most appealing hours if you ask me…….

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      1. Fagstein Post author

        it can be implied that Karwatsky and/or Schwartz were both offered the position but turned it (down).

        I don’t think that can be implied. I have no knowledge of any offers made or refused for this position. Don’t assume things just because they might make sense.

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  4. ZDZedDee

    She definitely has a high level of “watchability” and this is the primary tool of the television media to shovel their sensationalistic “if it bleeds it leads” crap into our homes and is why I no longer watch TV news. CBC radio news at 6pm is the best news report in Canada.

    I do have to say that her chin and jaw are a sensation: go Ms Blonde Ambition!

    I miss CFCF and Pulse News.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      Does this mean we’ve all been watching Lloyd Robertson all these years because he’s a hottie?

      No. Mansbridge is the hottie.

      Being a veteran often trumps being good-looking. Which is why those who aren’t hot tend to be old.

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      1. Fassero

        Mansbridge once was married to Wendy Mesley, no? Maybe it was the company he kept (at least back at the end of the Knowlton Nash era.)

        Pure speculation granted, but I really wonder if the answer is implied in her statement about reporting and anchoring. Seems to me she’ll be doing both so, in effect, the weekday job for her becomes very long (i.e. availability in the daytime in the field for reports then sticking around for a late-evening newscast.) She might have been the only one really prepared to make the sacrifices in personal/family life to take what CTV was dictating for this position.

        I actually don’t think “looks” was that big a factor. Maybe not as much with newscasts but I find an awful lot of female hosts of CTV programs whom obviously have had quite a bit of plastic surgery (and often pretty bad at that).

        On a side note, I think somebody wrote about the Toronto market often opting for “anchoring experience” when filling spots. Actually, in the case of females, this is actually not true at all. Just about every female anchor in Toronto I can think of had extensive reporter experience before ever seeing an anchor chair. Actually, the number of anchors who had a long history as field reporters with CITY (especially when it was owned by CHUM radio) is pretty eye-popping.

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  5. Steve W

    I don’t think Catherine has any hosting experience on radio either(unless you consider being the radio newsreader hosting work). Still I think she’s one of the better up & coming on-air people working in Montreal radio and/or television. I’m glad she will continue to do some reporting work for CTV Montreal, in addition to her anchor duties. That gives me comfort, that she wants to be serious journalist(not fluff stuff, that I see so many of the Montreal radio or television people often do).

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  6. Just Me

    When first I heard her on CJAD I thought that she had a nasally voice, and wondered how someone with a voice like that got a job on the radio, then I saw her on channel 12 news and no more wonders…

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  7. Vahan

    I’m probably getting old and cranky, but man I miss the “ugly” men of the past CFCF Pulse news days. Andrew Marquis, Ron Reush, Dick Irving, and imagine Don McGowan was probably consider the “pretty boy” of the lot, and that ain’t saying much. I could imagine them all getting ready for the newscast with smokes in their mouths and a glass of whisky on the rocks next to their typewriters while they chowed down of a fat smoked meat sandwich. They gave us the news and we trusted every word that came out of their mouths. Yeah I must be getting old and going through Mad Men withdrawal, that’s probably what is happening. Well good luck to the new kid.

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  8. Richard

    If I knew where to bet on something like this, I would have bet on her when I saw her doing the on-the-street “anchoring” (for want of a better word) with Todd before/during Grand Prix weekend. It’s like they were testing her out or something.

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  9. Rob Kemp

    Catherine Sherriffs is a young, smart, excellent reporter/newswoman. The wave of the future has to come from somewhere and Catherine is it! Some of my favorite mornings in radio where when Catherine was filling in on the news desk. She’s got loads of talent. Way to go Catherine!

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  10. Troy

    In TV news journalism, of course physical attractiveness is a BIG factor, especially for women!

    This may sound sexist, but the truth. Go to Fox News or CNN. Look at their studio anchors. The men are regular. Some good looking, some average. Look at the women. Relatively young and all very attractive. Look at their outfit. Men: pants, long-sleeve shirt, tie. More often with suit jacket on top. Women: sleeveless dress, low neck, short (above knees) skirt, no stocking.

    Double standard? You bet.

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  11. Jim S.

    I checked site about family connection, and sure ‘nuff “She’s the niece of current CFQR newsman Murray Sherriffs” – and someone else (‘meMOI’) also mentions possible nepotism – frankly I’m sick of it, newcomers with same last names as established media personalities, makes me wonder – do they have an unfair advantage, isn’t this undemocratic – true in this case she’s “ 2007 graduate of Concordia’s journalism program” each one undoubtedly has some appropriate experience, compared to being a complete ignoramus in the field, but still makes me want to boycott any such broadcast and switch the channel – rather than being indirectly supportive of this, seeming nepotism all over the place.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      frankly I’m sick of it, newcomers with same last names as established media personalities, makes me wonder – do they have an unfair advantage, isn’t this undemocratic

      First of all, since these are private companies, they have no requirement to be democratic.

      Secondly, this type of thing is actually a lot less common now than it used to be. Where I work, for example, a lot of the people who have been there 20 or 30 years got their jobs because their parents or other family members worked for the paper. Now we have annual internship programs that bring in skilled workers who don’t have the benefit of familial connections.

      Finally, networking is still a big part of getting jobs these days, no matter what the field. And children get a lot of exposure to the work of their parents, which gives them another leg up.

      But I’ve seem people discriminated against by managers who fear being seen as promoting nepotism, too.

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  12. Saffy

    let’s face it, being pretty and from a broadcast family doesn’t hurt. it may explain partly, getting such a prestigious job at a young age while many other j-school grads end up working in the boonies or in media relations.

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